Although President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s return from Germany — after having had to be airlifted to a specialist hospital following complications caused by COVID-19 — is expected imminently, there is widespread uncertainty and speculation about his health and whether he will be capable of leading the country.

Because the Presidency has maintained a compete silence over his medical condition, there is inevitable speculation about whether Article 102 of the Constitution might be applied to remove him fro0m office, or whether he might even decide to step down after trying to organise a smooth succession. The latter will be impossible. Nevertheless, some believe that, because he has never craved power in the same way as former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, he may be more willing to walk away from the office.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad (L) may be replaced by Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum (R)

If he does remain in office, he faces a number of almost insurmountable problems. These relate to: trying to resuscitate the 1 November referendum which was overwhelmingly rejected by the Algerian people; parliamentary elections; what to do with the government’s hated political parties; the country’s deepening financial crisis; the COVID-19 crisis and, not least, the Hirak.

In addition, there is an urgent need for a major ministerial reshuffle. Several ministers, including Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad are facing the prospect of dismissal. Other prominent names who look vulnerable are: Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid; Finance Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane; and Communications Minister Amar Belhimer. Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum is tipped in some quarters to replace Djerad.

Amar Belhimer is becoming an embarrassment and a liability to both the regime and Tebboune. This is not only because of his professional incompetence, but also because of his son’s involvement in drugs trafficking, in which he has potentially embarrassing links to President Tebboune’s son, Khaled Tebboune.

There are also mounting questions following revelations about Tebboune’s own involvement in corruption and especially when he was Minister of Housing.  The fact that he is hostage to countless secret files — held by the exiled former head of the gendarmerie, General Ghali Belkecir — relating to his past corruption may encourage him to step down from the Presidency.

Following the European Parliament’s (EP) condemnation of the regime for its abuse of human rights, the government, perhaps rather foolishly, has gone on the offensive, lambasting the EP for what it regards as interference in its internal affairs.

The government has also responded by increasing its repression, especially through it attempt to close down all on-line news sources in the country that are inclined to tell the truth about what is going on in the country.

The COVID-19 crisis is still deepening, with more cases emerging in the south and a growing shortage of key drugs.

Sonatrach currently appears to be embroiled in another corruption scandal. The government’s silence over the raft of allegations that have been levelled against Sonatrach’s senior management in the last month or two is becoming ominous and arousing suspicions that elements in the regime may once again be trying to loot the company.

This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.